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Costco absent from discussion about neighbourhood impact, says resident

Image Credit: SUBMITTED
January 09, 2020 - 7:40 AM

Plans for a new Kelowna Costco will be a significant tax on area roads even by the city’s standards, a potential future neighbour of the wholesaler says.

Ron Ready, strata president of the nearby Dilworth Green, said land near the southwest corner of Leckie Road and Baron Road is designated as residential under both the existing official community plan and its proposed update.

“The subject site is not envisioned by either OCP as appropriate for a commercial big box store location. Costco is a large scale service commercial application that is more suited to a highway commercial location on an arterial route that can support the generated traffic loads and is not suited for a residential neighbourhood, nor does it fit in with the planned concept of a mixed-use urban commercial/residential centre in this location,” Ready said in a letter detailing area resident concerns. He delivered it to the city by hand, in mid-December, but has yet to get a response. 

He added, the larger Costco with gas bar is not what would be considered a local commercial business.

“It is a high-volume, high-traffic, busy commercial enterprise that draws consumers from all over the interior, including Penticton, Peachland, Summerland, West Kelowna, Lake Country, Vernon, and other interior communities, on a daily basis,” he said.

Costco has been looking to expand for years and to include a gas bar that never materialized in its current location. Last year, the wholesaler was rumoured to be moving to Westbank First Nation land on the westside — and even became an election issue — until new plans were delivered to the City of Kelowna at the Leckie and Baron Roads location. 

The south side of Baron Road, between Leckie Road and Dilworth Drive, has been historically intended for and developed with medium to high-density residential uses in mind.

"For example, the proposed development of two residential towers at 1940 Underhill Street (the former School District administration office) is in keeping with the requirements of the OCP and the further development of this urban residential neighbourhood," he said.

"While the subject property may have been vacant for many years, that does not mean that development that is clearly incongruent with surrounding land uses and not in compliance with the City’s own legislated and approved planning guide for the area should be permitted simply because the site is large enough to suit Costco’s requirements.”

The paramount consideration, he said, should be whether the proposed development suits the existing neighbourhood and fits within the City’s planning goals for the neighbourhood.

There are 1,200 homes in 18 condos or townhomes in the surrounding area and Ready has been told by a city planner that there has been some “head knocking” between the City and the Washington state-based company over the proposed site.

The issue was “expectations to do with traffic issues” but that’s about all he’s heard from the city about it and, he said, neighbours opposed to the development are rankled by the process.

“All the people affected feel like it’s all but a done deal and the City of Kelowna is going just rubber-stamp it, which is the feeling you get even though it’s going through the process,” Ready, who was a city employee for 35 years, said.

“People are uptight and frustrated — there isn’t any question about that.”

Costco, Ready said, has been nearly absent from the discussion.

Plans for a new Kelowna Costco have been submitted to city hall.
Plans for a new Kelowna Costco have been submitted to city hall.
Image Credit: Costco

The key issue with the project before city planners is whether Costco’s relocation plans are an appropriate and desirable use of the vacant lands.

In documents submitted to the City by WSP Canada Group Limited, the store’s shown to be around 158,734 square feet, including designated space for a seasonal garden centre. The current store is 135,000 square feet.

The proposal shows room for 812 parking spots for the warehouse and 16 accessible parking spots.

There are 79 parking stalls for the gas bar, which will be situated off Baron Road, where it intersects with Durnin Road.

The plan so far is detailed and includes a proposal for landscaping and new lights along Leckie Road, which would get a lot more traffic.

Kelowna Costco has 90,000 members, employs 200 people and is the only Okanagan Costco. It opened in the early 90s.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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